WILMETTE — Under dark clouds on June 14th, an overflow crowd gathered on the terrace of the new Center for Jewish Life and Learning for its grand ribbon cutting ceremony. The long anticipated opening of the 8,500 square foot, multi-million dollar center culminates a two-and-a-half year building project.
With the North Shore Jewish population estimated between 50,000-75,000, it is the third largest concentration of Jewish communities outside of Israel. The multifaceted center was built to cater to a wide range of community needs, and features a magnificent sanctuary, social hall, educational wing, catering facilities, library and more.
David Ascalon of Cherry Hill, NJ, whose participation in the recent redesign of the famed Lincoln Square Synagogue won “Best of” by Interior Design Magazine, created 24 original stained glass windows and all the sanctuary’s ritual furnishing. Additionally, the beautiful structure boasts an exterior made entirely of Jerusalem stone.
“The name of our center is the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning. And not just any learning, but the kind of learning that leads to action and good deeds,” said Rabbi Dovid Flinkenstein, who co-founded Chabad of Wilmette, along with his wife Rivke. “Today we marvel at the past and its great achievement, and declare our desire for an even greater future, where there remains so much more to achieve.”
After acknowledging the presence of Wilmette Village President Bob Bielinski and Representative Laura Fine, he called on the Building Pioneers, all holding oversized scissors, to gather around building chairman Rob Selati and his wife Jill to cut the ceremonial ribbon.
Since its inception in 1991, Chabad of Wilmette, a part of Chabad’s worldwide network of educational and social service centers, has served as a home away from home for anyone who walks through its doors. “Acceptance of every Jew, regardless of background, affiliation, age or financial status, is the hallmark of Chabad” said Esther Leah Teldon, program and youth director at Chabad. “By blending traditional values with modern day techniques, we aim to give each person a greater appreciation of their roots, and inspire them to add acts of loving-kindness in everyday life.”
The diverse support the center has earned from the widest cross-section of the local communities is particularly noteworthy. “No matter what’s going on, I always feel at home here,” said Lauren Weiss. “The Rabbis and their wives somehow connect with everyone–me, my daughter–even my mom when she visits from the northwestern suburbs.”
During the cocktail hour, the center was open for tours where guests were escorted by the award-winning architect, Kiril Mirintchev. He pointed out some of his inspiration for the unique layout and design. Guests then enjoyed dinner and a concert by Jewish music superstar Benny Friedman.
“I’m so excited for our community’s future,” a tired Flinkenstein said with a smile as the evening came to a close, “This is only the beginning.”
— Submitted by Chabad of Wilmette, which offers Jewish education, outreach and social service programming for families and individuals of all ages, backgrounds and affiliations. For more information, contact Rabbi Moshe Teldon at 847.834.1200 or email [email protected]